The Ramblers’ Church, Lead, North Yorkshire


Ramblers leaving the Ramblers’ Church

“Since being rescued by a group of walkers in 1931, St Mary’s has been known as the Ramblers’ Church. The repairs made then are recorded on the back of the church door.

Back of the door at Lead

The church stands alone in the middle of a field filled with the bumps and furrows of earthworks that indicate the site of a Medieval manor house, for which St Mary’s was probably originally the chapel.

In the middle of a field

Nearby is Towton, the site of the War of the Roses battle, believed to be bloodiest in English history which brought the Wars of the Roses to an end in 1461.

Battle of Towton

Battle of Towton Information Board, Crooked Billet Pub, Lead, North Yorkshire

Ten thousand men are said to have been killed, and Cock Beck, the little stream which you cross to get to St Mary’s, is said to have run red with blood. 

Cock Beck

Cock Beck

You can find monuments to crusading knights in this tiny 14th-century church.

Despite its awesome history, St Mary’s is a peaceful place. The tiny rectangular building is very simple. It was probably built by the Tyas family, whose massive grave slabs are set into the floor.

Massive grave slabs

The massive grave slabs

Carved with heraldic symbols and inscriptions, and dating from the 13th-century, they are an important and interesting collection.

Pulpit and altar

Pulpit, Clerk’s Pew and Reading Desk and Altar

Later additions were made to the church in the 18th-century, with a rustic pulpit, clerk’s pew, reading desk and painted texts.”

From the Churches Conservation Trust website.

Interior St Mary's Lead

Interior of the Ramblers’ Church

Richard III wondow

Window behind the Altar paid for by the Richard III Society – topical!

Today I have been out in the Yorkshire countryside. Weekday Wanderers headed east of Leeds to the flat countryside between Leeds and York. Flat but not uninteresting. Parking in Aberford we crossed the A1M by footbridge and eventually after a while left the noise of the highway behind and crossed fields and followed easy tracks on a circular walk that included a ‘castle’, a village, two churches and two pubs. We stopped at one of the pubs for our picnic lunch and had a look at one of the churches – St Mary’s, Lead, The Ramblers’ Church. We were not quite on the Battlefield of Towton, mentioned above, but we did return to the cars alongside Cock Beck. The perfect winter ramble.

The ‘castle’ was Hazlewood Castle now a very popular luxury hotel and wedding venue. Originally owned and lived in by the Vavasour family from 1971 until 1996 it was a Carmelite Friars’ retreat and opened as a hotel in 1997.

Hazelwood Castle

Hazlewood Castle

Saxton Church

All Saints Church, Saxton

The Greyhound, Saxton

The Greyhound Pub at Saxton

Crooked Billet

The Crooked Billet Pub, Lead near Saxton North Yorkshire

Muddy boots welcome

Muddy boots welcome! The sign of a good pub!


14 comments on “The Ramblers’ Church, Lead, North Yorkshire

  1. Sarah Wrightson says:

    Another wonderful day, muddy boots and all. St. Mary’s seems to “speak” somehow, even through the internet.

    • Thank you, Sarah. Such a jewel to come across in the middle of a field – and it being dedicated to ramblers who ‘discovered’ it and had it brought back to life again. I’m glad you liked it.

  2. dovegreyreader says:

    What a magical and special place Barbara. Is it still an ‘active’ church with regular services?? I am hoping those might be fresh flowers on the altar and that your answer will be ‘yes’. Such a lovely peaceful place and worth the effort to get there.

    • I *think* Lynne, that it is in use occasionally for services but doesn’t serve as a regular parish church. Yes, very real, fresh flowers. Someone/some people who probably live(s) nearby love(s) this church, not surprisingly. Not so much effort, yesterday, luckily as it was exactly on our route. By the end though, the 8.5 miles in total did seem like a bit of an effort!

  3. Fran says:

    Like the thought that ramblers have a church dedicated to them..even if just a place to rest awhile whilst out walking. It always pleases me to find a church open, to sit and soak up the atmosphere. Your photo give that sense of peace.

    • I agree, Fran, and loved the fact that we ramblers included this ramblers’ church on our route. Like you – if the church is open, when I’m out walking, I just have to pop in if time and company allow.

  4. People keep telling me I should get over to Lead for the church, knowing my preoccupation with them, and I have to say it’s not until I’ve seen your photos here that I’ve felt particularly inspired to do so. (I might have to pick up the saxton church at the same time.)

    • Kill two birds with one stone, why don’t you? I would also add the cross commemorating the Battle – opposite the entrance to the golf course, I believe.

      • Thanks! I have a picture of the memorial up at Marston Moor, it would be nice to get others in the area.
        (One time I went to the Marston Moor memorial somebody had put a few handfuls of lemons at the base, still not sure what that was about, weird.)

  5. Nilly says:

    Like the previous comment writer, I’ve always meant to find this lovely church – now you’ve shown us the interior it ‘s become even more of a “must see”.

  6. Alex in Leeds says:

    Thanks so much for leaving a comment on my Towton post ( I’ve never yet managed to walk past St Mary’s when it’s been open so it’s lovely to see your photos of the interior – I’ve stared through the window so many times but it’s even more interesting on the inside than I thought. A wonderful detour on a ramble. 🙂

    • Hello Alex. Thank you for your comment here. Yes, luckily it was open as we arrived otherwise I don’t think the group would have stopped for me to fetch the key! I would imagine they have a key at the nearby pub.

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